Posts Tagged ‘Afghanistan withdrawal’

Big money in politics keeps forever wars going

September 2, 2021

After his appearance on Breaking Points, Matt Taibbi commented:

A lot of people want to look at the bright side with this withdrawal, and they should, up to a point.  However much he may have botched the planning, Joe Biden deserves credit for sticking to his timeline.  It is good news that the United States can eventually recognize that a war has stopped serving any purpose, and actually decide to leave a country ten years after the last theoretical reason for staying has expired.

However, the fact that both the government and the national commentariat remain essentially captured by contractor money remains as big a problem as ever, as this episode shows.  We haven’t even reached the stage of being able to identify the financial connections of the people occupying center stage on the national televised debate over military policy.  It’s a terrible look that the people willing to point things like this out mostly all work for independent media outlets, while the New York Times and Washington Post have to be harassed to do the ethical minimum on that score.

If we properly identified the sponsors of the people with the biggest voices in media and politics, a lot more of what America does at home and around the world would make sense.  We need more of that, and thanks to Krystal and Saagar for bringing the topic up.

On Afghanistan, the Revolving Door and Media Failure to Disclose Contracting Ties of Guests by Matt Taibbi for TK News.

Reality catches up with U.S. in Afghanistan

August 17, 2021

Updated 8/18/2021, 8/19/2021.

I think President Biden, despite his embarrassing press conference on July 7, made the right decision about Afghanistan. 

The war was unwinnable.  The military establishment has known this for at least 10 years. 

President Obama knew this, but did not have the moral courage to take the final step.  President Trump understood this, and scheduled a troop withdrawal to be completed after the 2020 elections.  It was left to Joe Biden to take the final step.

Saying the U.S. should have stayed longer in Afghanistan is like saying the Wile E. Coyote character in the Road Runner cartoons should not have looked down after he ran off the edge of the cliff.

Back during the George W. Bush administration, Karl Rove told a reporter that the U.S. was an empire that could afford to ignore the “reality-based community” because it had the power to create its own reality.  We now see where arrogance and willful ignorance lead.

As someone said, it is possible to ignore reality, but it is not possible to ignore the consequences of ignoring reality.

Below are some links to reality-based comments.  I may add more if I come across them.


Afghanistan Meant Nothing. A Veteran Reflects on 20 Wasted Years| by Laura Jedeed for Medium

I remember Afghanistan well. I deployed there twice — once in 2008, and again in 2009–2010. It was already obvious that the Taliban would sweep through the very instant we left. And here we are today.

I know how bad the Taliban is. I know what they do to women and little boys. I know what they’re going to do to the interpreters and the people who cooperated with us, it’s awful, it’s bad, but we are leaving, and all I feel is grim relief. [snip]

I remember Afghanistan as a dusty beige nightmare of a place full of proud, brave people who did not fucking want us there.  We called them Hajjis and worse and they were better than we were, braver and stronger and smarter.

I remember going through the phones of the people we detained and finding clip after clip of Bollywood musicals, women singing in fields of flowers. Rarely did I find anything incriminating. [snip]

I remember how every year the US would have to decide how to deal with the opium fields. There were a few options.

You could leave the fields alone, and then the Taliban would shake the farmers down and use the money to buy weapons.

Or, you could carpet bomb the fields, and then the farmers would join the Taliban for reasons that, to me, seem obvious.

The third option, and the one we went for while I was there, was to give the farmers fertilizer as an incentive to grow wheat instead of opium poppy.

The farmers then sold the fertilizer to the Taliban, who used it to make explosives for IEDs that could destroy a million dollar MRAP and maim everyone inside.

I remember we weren’t allowed to throw batteries away because people who worked on base would go through the trash and collect hundreds of dead batteries, wire them together so they had just enough juice for one charge, and use that charge to detonate an IED.

I remember the look on my roommate’s face after she got back from cutting the dead bodies of two soldiers out of an HMMWV that got blown up by an IED that I have always imagined was made with fertilizer from an opium farmer and detonated with a hundred thrown-out batteries.  [snip]

And now, finally, we are leaving and the predictable thing is happening. The Taliban is surging in and taking it all back.

They were always going to do this, because they have a thing you cannot buy or train, they have patience and a bloody-mindedness that warrants more respect than we ever gave them.


The U.S. leaving behind those who helped us

August 17, 2021

The least that we Americans as a nation can do is to offer refuge to those Afghans who trusted us and helped our misguided military effort.

But Reuters reported last Friday that the U.S. evacuation efforts are stalled because the government can’t speed up the process of approving their visas.  So foreign governments were being asked to take in refugees while the U.S. bureaucracy did its paperwork.

Meanwhile people who put their trust in the United States are going to die because our government prioritizes filling out paperwork correctly over saving their lives.

President Joe Biden’s administration has been holding secret talks with more countries than previously known in a desperate attempt to secure deals to temporarily house at-risk Afghans who worked for the U.S. government, four U.S. officials told Reuters.

The previously unreported discussions with such countries as Kosovo and Albania underscore the administration’s desire to protect U.S.-affiliated Afghans from Taliban reprisals while safely completing the process of approving their U.S. visas.

About 21,000 Afghans have applied for refuge under a special program.

With the Taliban tightening their grip on Afghanistan at a shockingly swift pace, the United States on Thursday announced it would send 1,000 personnel to Qatar to accelerate the processing of applications for Special Immigrant Visas (SIV). Afghans who served as interpreters for the U.S. government and in other jobs are entitled to apply for the SIV program.

So far, about 1,200 Afghans have been evacuated to the United States and that number is set to rise to 3,500 in the coming weeks under “Operation Allies Refuge,” with some going to a U.S. military base in Virginia to finalize their paperwork and others directly to U.S. hosts.

Fearful the Taliban’s advances are raising the threat to SIV applicants still awaiting processing, Washington is seeking third countries to host them until their paperwork is done and they can fly to the United States.

“It is deeply troubling that there is no concrete plan in place to evacuate allies who are clearly in harm’s way,” said Krish O’Mara Vignarajah, president of the Lutheran Immigration and Refugee Service resettlement organization.

“It is baffling why the administration has been taking so long in order to secure these agreements,” she said.

In short, the U.S. government cannot change its procedures to do what is necessary in an emergency, so it asks foreign governments that have no responsibility for Afghanistan to do what it cannot.

Taliban spokesmen say they have no interest in reprisals.  Let’s hope they mean it.  But the history of such statements by victors in revolutions and civil war indicates otherwise.


Shame, Shame, Shame by Alex Tabarrok for Marginal Revolution.

In desperation, U.S. scours for countries willing to house Afghan refugees by Idrees Ali, Humeyra Pamuk and James Lindsay for Reuters.

Afghanistan, Iran and U.S. power

April 19, 2021

This is from a message by my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey.  It’s as good an analysis as I’ve seen lately. .

Whether my speculation on the continuing US presence in Afghan has much to do with their intransigence there, I can’t see the pressure-on-Iran angle as water under the bridge, whatever the status of the nuclear deal.

There are at least these factors: –

Long-time obsession, certainly 1979 on, with Iran for many of the people with a say in making the decisions. –

Iran’s role in MEast:

US fealty to Israel.

US- Saudi relationship, though not as firm as it used to be, remains in operational high gear.

Iran’s reach throughout the region-  Hezbollah; the Houthis; the Palestinians; the Assad regime; the ascendant position of the Shias in Iraq, courtesy of the Bush II gang.

What am I missing?

Yes, there’s the pivot to Asia where I agree our greater focus should be, but these factors in MEast won’t be overlooked any time soon.

– Iran in US-Europe entanglements- finance capital and energy policy, where the US squeeze on Europe has all but slipped away. And NATO, which has taken a hit recently from Trump (even a broken clock is right twice a day), will continue to be a sore point, especially when the Afghanistan post-mortems begin and many European commentators will be asking “How did we ever get into THAT?”

– Iran itself has been and continues to be a big plum for imperial gazers. In addition to all the other factors I list here: oil; other resources?  – natural gas in the field in the Gulf and co-administered with Quatar is the largest reserve in the world; 75 million relatively prosperous (or could be) souls- quite a market opportunity (The Burger King in Pristina, tennis shoes, movies, bank loans for mega-dams…); and quite a few hands to work the small assembly industry that once was growing in Iran; yet another “threat” for military producers and their flunkies to use to gas up Congress (as if they need it). … …

– Internal Iranian politics- properly speaking, not a factor for this list, but a factor: Who in Iran, of whatever political persuasion, could sensibly trust the US on anything?

– THE UPSHOT: The imperialists are between a rock and a hard place. Everywhere their options are limited by the will of others and most of those limited options have obvious unhappy downsides for them. Their stumble-bumbling is rooted in this predicament. It’s dangerous.


No end yet to the long war in Afghanistan

December 31, 2014

As we enter a new year, the United States is still entangled in Afghanistan, and as far from accomplishing any positive objectives as it always was.

President Obama’s declaration that the U.S. combat mission in Afghanistan is over is as hollow as President George W. Bush’s declaration of “mission accomplished” in Iraq.

My guess is that President Obama is in the same situation as President Richard M. Nixon in regard to Vietnam.  Nixon and Henry Kissinger realized the war was not winnable, but were unwilling to be the ones who admitted defeat.  So the war went on.

As Lt. John Kerry said back then, “How do you ask a man to be the last man to die for a mistake?”


Hat tip for the following links to Iraq Veterans Against the War and my e-mail pen pal Bill Harvey.

U.S. formally ends war in Afghanistan by Lynne O’Donnell for the Associated Press.

Signed agreement locks in ten more years of Afghan war by Sarah Lazare for Common Dreams.

1,000 paratroopers to deploy to Iraq by Michelle Tan in Army Times.


What the meaning of “withdrawal” is

January 16, 2013

President Barack Obama wants to keep U.S. Special Forces in Afghanistan after the official troop withdrawal, but Afghan President Hamid Karzai says “no.”

Hamid Karzai

Hamid Karzai

Obama said the Special Forces are needed to train Afghan police and militias to fight the Taliban.  Karzai said the presence of a residual American force would simply draw attacks.  The seems to settle it.  The training mission couldn’t possibly work without the cooperation of the Afghan government.

We had a similar situation with the withdrawal of ground troops from Iraq.  Obama wanted to keep a residual force there, but Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki said any remaining Americans in Iraq must be subject to Iraqi law, which was a deal-breaker.

Recall that both Karzai and al-Maliki came to power in elections held under U.S. auspices.   I guess it is a tribute to the integrity of the elections that neither ruler is a complete U.S. puppet, and that both need to respond to public opinion.  But it also is an indication of the failure of U.S. efforts of nation-building in those two countries.

When the United States helped the Germans and Japanese rebuild their economies after World War Two, some people said the best thing that could happen to a country was to go to war with the US and lose.  That was not meant seriously, but I don’t think anybody would say that today, even as a joke.   I don’t think there are many people in the Middle East or Central Asia, no matter how tyrannical their governments may be, who hope for an American invasion and occupation.

Click on Afghans want withdrawal of village police trainers for the Washington Post article.  Hat tip to Kevin Drum.

Click on “We’re bombs and we’re here to help” for a pertinent comment by “B Psycho”.

No exit yet from Afghanistan

June 23, 2011

Click to view

President Barack Obama last night announced a plan to reduce the number of U.S. troops in Afghanistan from more than 100,000 to between 60,000 and 70,000.  But the United States will still be making a stronger war effort than under President George W. Bush.  When left office, U.S. troop strength in Afghanistan was under 40,000.

What Obama is doing is not a reversal of policy.  His position in 2008, like Senator Kerry’s in 2004, was that, by invading Iraq, the United States was fighting the wrong war, and that the U.S. government should be shifting its forces from Iraq to Afghanistan.  Obama is doing what he said was going to do—unfortunately.